Moving forward with improving transportation services

Oct 31, 2019

This fall, as part of a comprehensive review of our transportation services, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) held four listening sessions in Houlton, Lewiston, Bangor, and Portland. During these sessions, the Department heard from clients and their family members, transportation and health providers, drivers, and other stakeholders.

DHHS recognizes a need to improve the transportation system to better serve both MaineCare members and others who receive services through the Department. We sought feedback through the listening sessions to inform our approach.

Participants shared their experiences with the current transportation system. Several common topics were raised:

  1. Timeliness -- Participants spoke of difficulties when drivers arrive much earlier or later than scheduled. Several people recommended shortening the 2-hour time frame for pickups and drop offs.
  2. Communication -- Participants noted an overall need for improved communication among transportation providers, DHHS, other service providers, and clients. Many described frustrations with short business hours and not receiving a call back from their broker about reimbursements, complaints, scheduling rides, etc. Additionally, others shared experiences of not being informed when rides had been cancelled, of not being made aware of a driver's arrival, and of a need to improve the grievance process.
  3. Rides with children -- Some commenters spoke about having to miss appointments because they are not permitted to bring their children with them during rides. For parents with children receiving services, participants highlighted issues with drivers either not bringing car seats or having care seats unsuitable for the child's age.
  4. Sharing treatment plans -- Individuals and service providers highlighted concern regarding the requirement that certain treatment plans be provided to drivers and confusion around what the federal law dictates in this regard.

Participants also raised, among other issues, driver training and compensation, weather cancellations, and differences in service quality between rural and more urban areas.

The Department is preparing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an evaluation of the transportation system that includes further gathering of information from clients, transportation providers, brokers, and health care providers about the quality of services and barriers to access; best practices gathered from literature reviews and other states' transportation programs; recommendations to improve quality and access to transportation services; and an assessment of options moving forward.

There will be additional opportunities for public comment during this phase of the review process.

We thank all those who participated in these valuable listening sessions for sharing their experiences.